What: greenhouse with cows
Who: ca. 16 farmers
When: started in 2006
Who drives on the A16 in the Netherlands and passes the Moerdijk, will see a large greenhouse beside the highway. Although, this is what it looks like if you pass by quickly. However, in the greenhouse-like complex they don’t grow cucumbers or tomatoes but cows live there.
A ‘cow greenhouse’ is actually called a free-range cowshed and offers opportunities for improving sustainability in the dairy industry. This mainly relates to better animal welfare and better fertiliser. The challenge is to combine more space for the animals with fewer emissions, while at the same time reducing the cost price (or at least keeping it the same). More space with soft soils can lead to a reduction in hoof problems and to more natural behaviour. Healthier animals mean that the lifetime of the cattle can be extended.
The first thing that you’ll notice in the area of 140 by 50 meters is the light and the peace. Due to the open sides and the high ceiling, which is covered with transparent film, the greenhouse is covered in daylight. On the compost layer that is covering the bottom of the greenhouse, a big amount of the 180 cows is laying and chewing calmly. A few are waiting for the milking robot, some others are grazing grass at one of the movable feed cars or drinking. “The cows can visit each other, but also avoid each other. This creates less fuss,” Marc Havermans explains.